Che Ahn has long been a globally recognized Christian leader. The Korean immigrant founded and leads 150 churches and ministries in the Harvest International Ministry network based in Pasadena, California. In 2020, Ahn’s church, Harvest Rock, sued Governor Gavin Newsom, in partnership with another church network, and won a major U.S. Supreme Court case liberating churches from unconstitutional closings and limits. Ahn recently spoke with the Conejo Guardian.
CG: You probably never expected to be the guy to take a case to the Supreme Court.
Ahn: Not in a million years. It was not on my radar.
G: How did it feel?
Ahn: Honestly, there was more hesitation before I made the decision than after I made the decision. The hesitation was, we had developed so much equity in our city — the performing arts building is our auditorium, and we’ve opened it up for concerts; the police department uses our building for awards night. It’s just our way of loving and serving our city. Because Pasadena is very Democratic — all the city council members and the mayor are Democrats and aligned with Newsom — I knew the moment I sued the governor, I would immediately be seen as an adversary, an enemy.
But the Lord gave me a verse to help me through that. Galatians 1:10 says that if I’m trying to please men, then I’m not a true servant of Christ. I realized I needed to obey God rather than try to please people, and I knew that some people would be sympathetic with our first amendment rights, but the majority would not. I knew it was of the Lord to take a stand for righteousness’ sake and justice’s sake, because the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. No one’s above the Constitution — not the governor, not the president.
CG: Were you surprised that a lot of people weren’t pushing back against church shutdowns?
Ahn: I was. I thought this was a no-brainer. I think my background helps me because my dad was arrested for being a pastor in North Korea in the ‘50s. It was only because U.S. soldiers intervened in 1950 with General Douglas McArthur under President Truman that we’re able to push the North Korean communist forces to the Chinese border, releasing millions of people from communist oppression, including my dad from prison. He and his family were able to escape to South Korea.
So he always had a real hatred for communist ideology. Not the people, ‘cause his people were North Koreans and many of them were still stuck there, but we came to this country because of the democracy, because of what the United States did, and the American dream for every international to come to this country for that purpose. That was part of my DNA, and when I started to see California become so woke, and the progressive left take control of the government and locking down the church, which was a first amendment violation — and not just the church, but we had people in our church lose businesses during this lockdown that wasn’t really based on science, at least the science and data I was studying — I felt if we could take a stand on behalf of people, then I want to do that.
CG: How did it feel when you got the news that you won the case back in February?
Ahn: I was, of course, extremely elated because I was so discouraged over the election results. I think the election was stolen; there was so much corruption. I actually campaigned for Trump in an indirect way. I took September and October, two months in a bunch of the battleground states, and I began to register people to vote, to make a pledge to vote for life and never for any candidate that is pro-abortion. I used that to rally churches and leaders. It was amazing because there was so much momentum on Trump that even I had crowds up to 2,000 at my rallies. It was amazing.
We won [the Supreme Court case], and it was so definitive that we got a large settlement from the state of California of $1.35 million. My friend Mark Hodge got $1.6 million. We’re really grateful for the Supreme Court and the division of powers. It really works. Our founding fathers were wise. It was a victory for the whole body of Christ, in my opinion.
CG: Unlike other churches, yours grew during the government-imposed lockdowns.
Ahn: We’ve opened up four different campuses during this time. A lot of people are checking out our church because of the lawsuits. They are coming to see who’s the church that sued the governor? People can smell freedom, and they’re drawn to that. Then they hear the gospel, and they’re coming forth. We’ve had so many first-time converts this past year than ever in the history of our church. I really believe it’s a sign of the harvest to come.
But also, I think God is honoring us for our obedience and taking a stand. And of course people are coming because other churches are still closed. It’s crazy. Or they opened up, but they have no more momentum because they shut down way too long.
CG: What should the posture of the church be within the community?
Ahn: The government is there to do good, and when they’re good, I’m the best citizen. I’m paying my taxes. I’m gonna be patriotic to the core. I’m an immigrant who became a citizen here. I love this nation. But when they [governments] do evil, that’s where we have to realize that ultimately we obey God rather than man. Plus, our nation is founded on the Constitution. Even the governor is under the Constitution, and the Constitution gives us the right to meet, so I was obeying the law. I was obeying by opening up.
I personally have a conviction that every pastor should have opened up. … We’re to be the light in the darkness, and if we’re not showing up, the dark is going to get darker. Of course, Rob McCoy is one of my heroes. I thank God for his courage and boldness.
CG: Any final thoughts?
Ahn: Revival looks like social transformation. It’s not just souls being saved and church being awakened, but bringing change to society. I believe that we’re going to see that. I’ve never been more encouraged by the church rising.